People love radio. That's a finding of a recent study by Nielsen, a global research company. The study, which has received wide attention from a diverse range of media outlets shows traditional, AM/FM radio is used by 93% of all adults each week. More than TV. More than smart phones. More than computers. The study prompted Doug Schoen of Forbes magazine to proclaim, "It’s quite clear that we should all be paying more attention to radio, its reach and potential to help our businesses. It’s doing the job with expert efficiency."
This is old news to many Maine business owners who depend on Portland radio to successfully market their products and services to their current and prospective customers. This includes Adam Soule, General Manager of A-Best Windows, a Maine company that has been manufacturing and installing replacement windows for 30 year. Soule has found radio to be a "timeless marketing tool where every car has a radio and radio is free to the consumer."
So as commercial radio approaches its 95th birthday this November, why do people still tune-in despite the abundance of other media options like Facebook, Hulu, and Instagram? The answer is 3.5 billion years old.
How Humans Evolved To Listen
NPR recently ran a seven part series of reports during Morning Edition called, "Close Listening: Decoding Nature Through Science." The seventh installment dealt with why hearing is humans' most essential sense. According to reporters Bill McQuay and Christopher Joyce, " Evolution has a habit of teaching us what's important. And what we hear has always been high on that list. That's why parents are acutely attuned to the sound of their offspring. Animals that hunt use sound to collaborate. Animals that are hunted prick up their ears."
As part of their story McQuay and Joyce interviewed Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist and author of a book on the hearing brain. As part of the research for the book, Horowitz studied how vibration, the building block of sound, has shaped our brains' evolution. According to Horowitz, "Sound gives you a sensory input that is not limited by field of vision. And it will propagate through anything."
You Hear 20 To 100 Times Faster Than You See
"I mean, you hear anywhere form 20 to 100 times faster than you see," says Horowitz. "So that everything you perceived with your ears is coloring every other perception you have and every conscious thought you have." Sound gets in so fast that it modifies all other input and sets the stage for it."
Joyce adds, "[Sound] can do that because the auditory circuity in the brain is less widely distributed than the visual system, so sound signals don't have as far to travel in the brain. And sound gets routed to parts of the brain that deal with very basic functions - places where emotions are generated."
Sound Drives Emotion
"We're emotional creatures. Emotions are evolutionary, fast responses - things you don't have to think about," says Horowitz. That's why if you hear your baby cry, a rattlesnake, or your door handle clicking in the middle of night you respond before you know it. "Hear that sound," says Horowitz, "get ready to run. Emotions become rapid response system, and sound drives emotion."
According to Horowitz, our ability to process sound has evolved from our most prehistoric single cell ancestors. "Vibration sensitivity is found in even the most primitive life forms," Horowitz says, "even bacteria. It's so critical to your environment, knowing that something else is moving near you, whether it's a predator or it's food. Everywhere you go, there is vibration and it tells you something."
Radio is pure sound. And over 3.5 billion years, we have become exquisitely sensitive to sound. So, in can be concluded that its the things we hear, not see, that have the greatest affect on our emotions. And emotions are the reasons we buy.
To listen to the full NPR story, click here.
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